Tag Archives: Ipswich

Easily distracted…

Today I’m grabbing an hour to write in between other committments. 15 minutes ago, I wanted to know where the market might be in Ipswich in around 1190, give or take 20 years. It’s for a very small scene near the start of the book, setting up the antagonist – the Prior of Holy Trinity priory – as a baddie. I came across this, from just before the Conquest;

ipswich1086

And now I want to know what the Thingstead was – maybe the local version of Parliament Square? What was built on it, and how much survived the Conquest? The red crosses mark potteries – good old dark grey Ipswich ware, that I find such a lot of in the field. I hadn’t realised they were in the centre of town – what did they add to the smells and sounds? I can feel my whole hour of writing being sucked into the black hole that is research – but isn’t it fun? 😀

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Silver linings and Maryan shrines…

Thinking silver linings – I had to drop off a bunch of papers at my solicitor’s a couple of days ago. I had a little free time, and was going to walk in to town and see if I could find a second-hand sheepskin rug (for knapping purposes..). However, right opposite the solicitor’s offices was a little church, with a sign outside saying “Come in and see our historic church”. Well, I am a complete sucker for historic churches, so I did; and what a nice surprise it turned out to be!

Firstly, the main door once through the porch is super – solidly Norman, no less, with some really nice decoration. I spent several minutes admiring that alone 🙂 It claims to be the oldest door in Ipswich – I’m a little suspicious about that, but it is an excellent example.

Then I wandered into the body of the church itself. This is mostly Victorian tat – except for the ORIGINAL statue of Mary and Jesus, that formed the centrepiece of the large Maryan cult in Ipswich in the middle ages! I’ve known about a small reproduction of the statue for a long time. It’s at the entrance to Lady Lane (a couple of hundred yards uphill from my newly favourite church); but finding the real statue here was completely unexpected! I have a very soft spot for this statue, as Mary is cuddling Jesus on an unusual side – which happens to be the same side as Wimer’s Mary is, on the arms of my St Mary of the Alder Grove. Incidentally, there’s a faintly strange cup-like arrangement carved underneath one of Jesus’ feet – if you go, I’d love to know its purpose? It is still a shrine, which I also appreciated. I had to carefully squeeze past the votive candles to admire the statue properly.

As always, I hunted for a historical leaflet; I have actually been known to pay for these 😛 None visible. Finally, on some display boards opposite the door but turned away from the line of march, was the potted history I was looking for; and it turns out that the Augustinian Priory of Holy Trinity in Ipswich was this church’s mother house! So Wimer might have known it himself; and the Holy Trinity Prior, one of my baddies in the Wimer sequel, certainly would have. How cool is that!

Lastly, the bell tower proved worth a glance – if a bit of a sniffy one, because it’s brick, and I was by now firmly back in the 12thC! Good brick, though; early; and with an English bond, and nice diapering. Best view is round the back, which also lets you admire the rather fine timbered houses behind the church.

I would definitely recommend a look around, if you’re in Elm Street – that’s where the police station is, in Ipswich, and just down from the Wolsey Theatre car park. Hey – Cardinal Wolsey would have known the church too! 😀

Its website is just as discreet as the church is! http://www.stmaryattheelms.org.uk/st_mary_at_the_elms/Home_Page.html

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